The 7th edition of La Course by Le Tour de France avec FDJ looks more unpredictable than ever on a course around Nice especially designed to favour tactics over sheer strength. Title holder Marianne Vos and in-form Lizzie Deignan, who races at home, are excited about the 96-km event.
In spite of the Covid-19 crisis, broadcasting of La Course is on the rise.
Jean-Marc Marino : « The most clever rider will win”
Race director Jean-Marc Marino is confident that the 7th edition of La Course by Le Tour de France avec FDJ will be exciting to watch and he warns that tactics, more than strength, will be the key on the 96-km course designed in the hills around Nice.
“It’s a pretty hard course at first, with a 5.5 km climb (Cote de Rimiez) at 5% and then it goes on climbing, it’s the Nice hinterland and we know how bumpy it is. Then there is a really steep descent, very technical and then 20 km on the flat,” he said.
“We can expect a big battle in the climbs. The big question is whether a sprinter can survive or whether a breakaway can go all the way. Nothing is written and that’s what we wanted, to have an unpredictable race. We noticed in the past that if we made too hard a course, it was always the same who won. This time, it might not be the strongest who wins, but certainly the most clever,” the former Tour de France rider added.
While Dutch riders, led by Marianne Vos, Annemiek van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen, who is not taking part this year, stole the show in the past, Marino expects a tougher fight this time.
“You can expect a surprise because there are a lot of up and coming young riders who will be less closely watched than the favourites. They can sneak their way into victory. Of course we can have a solo win by Annemiek van Vleuten, and Marianne Vos, who climbs well, can win a sprint finish. Or Lizzie Deignan, who just won in Plouay and has a strong finish,” he said.
Marianne Vos: “Not for a specific rider”
Marianne Vos will be going for a hat trick on Saturday all the more confident as she feels the course suits her better than most.
“Last year’s was a fantastic win for me personally. After the first time on the Champs-Elysées, it was a different course but the same sensations and feelings crossing the line”, the Dutchwoman said.
Winner of La Course in 2014 on the Champs Elysees and last year in Pau, the three-times world road champion said the course was all the more interesting as it was unpredictable. She will obviously be among the leading favourites with compatriot Annemiek van Vleuten, also a two-times winner of the race, who was crowned European champion on Thursday.
“The course does not seem to be made for a specific type of rider. It’s not for the sprinters, it’s not for the climbers, it gives possibilities for a breakaway, it gives possibilities even for a sprinter if she survives but also the stronger climbers or classics riders can make a difference,” she said.
“I think a lot of teams will go there with an aim to win. I don’t really know the course, I’ve seen it on the Internet, which is the only possibility we have at this moment. I’ll see the course when I’m there. But the team will do the preparation and you can do a fairly good recon without being there”, she added.
Lizzie Deignan: “It’s kind of a home race”
Fresh from her third victory in the Grand Prix de Plouay, 2015 road world champion Lizzie Deignan is looking forward to La Course by le Tour de France avec FDJ, almost on home truf as she lives in Monaco during the season.
“La Course by le Tour de France avec FDJ it’s kind of a home race, it’s just down the road and I’ve ridden on those roads quite a lot. It’s obviously going to be a big celebration of cycling, with the Tour de France just down the road, it’s quite exciting to be part of that,” she said.
The Briton likes the circuit very much. “I think it’s actually a good course, a good racing course. this year was an easy year for A.S.O. to back out from having a woman’s race and I’m pleased that there’s still a woman race”.
“I think it’s a good racing circuit and is going to be quite aggressive”, Deignan, the Trek-Segafredo team leader added.
Deignan, who had health problems – food poisoning and a crash at Strade Bianche –, at the start of the season, showed great shape and tactical sense to win in Plouay and she will hope to improve on her best result in La Course by le Tour de France avec FDJ – second place in 2017. She can also count on the support of Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini, silver-medallist ay the European Championships, who can be an outside chance for team Trek-Segafredo.